Equal Opportunities Commission


Chairperson’s Articles

Policies for ethnic minority groups require respect for culture


Letter to SCMP Editor

It is most encouraging to see that the chief executive’s policy address late last month included an initiative to provide emotional support and counselling for the city’s ethnic minorities.

The Equal Opportunities Commission has long advocated for equal access to goods, facilities and services. To ensure equal access to services, in particular, these services must be made culturally sensitive, appropriate and relevant to the needs of the service user. We are glad to see that the policy address has specifically addressed the needs of ethnic minorities, particularly low-income families.

A centre offering counselling services to ethnic minorities will be set up on a trial basis, in collaboration with NGOs. We are hopeful it will strengthen healthcare support for ethnic minority groups. Similarly, it was refreshing to see cultural sensitivity mentioned in a study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong on a health issue of common concern – obesity and diabetes.

The study rightly highlighted that ethnic minority groups may miss vital health messaging due to cultural and language barriers. It points to the need to take into account the food preferences and lifestyle choices of these communities when developing strategies to promote healthier habits to combat obesity and diabetes.

I fully support the call for targeted and culturally sensitive actions to improve the health of ethnic minorities, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Translating health information into different languages is a good start. But we must go beyond language and consider cultural nuances, food preferences and lifestyle practices to effectively engage with and empower members of these groups.

The use of innovative approaches, tailored to the dietary habits of our ethnic minority groups, is commendable.

It would be prudent for the healthcare sector to consider these recommendations seriously. Other areas of service provision should also take the same approach. By recognising and respecting their unique cultural perspectives and preferences, we can create more inclusive and effective systems that address the needs of our ethnic minority groups.

The article was published in SCMP on 10 November 2023.